With 24 days to go until the first Purple Tuesday, I continue to be astounded by how much interest and support we are receiving. The last three months have been a whirlwind, from our launch on Sky News (which we could not have anticipated, and which catapulted a vision into a reality) to today when we are at over 300 registrations of interest and expecting upwards of 500 organisations on the day. I have spoken to many of you already and am committed to speaking to as many of you personally as possible either before, during or immediately after Purple Tuesday.
I am first and foremost a CEO and business leader in my own right, but as a disabled man Purple Tuesday will always be about more than it just making business sense.
During my childhood disabled people were in many ways not to be seen, or if we were, were seen as beneficiaries of charity and users of welfare and care. I used to get taken on my school ‘happy bus’ as we called it, from my special school in Sussex once a month to the nearby town where we were taken into one shop as a ‘treat’ and able to spend any pocket money our parents had provided. The shop and town itself treated our arrival like a special event. I very much felt a disabled person, rather than a person first who happened to have a disability.
Fast forward to 2018, and the world is a very different place for sure. Our towns and shops are far more accessible, and I believe I am generally treated the same as people who do not have a disability. But I still feel a sense of trepidation. Shop staff are still unsure of engaging with me – not because of prejudice, but a fear of unintentionally offending me through the wrong language or etiquette. This results in them swerving the conversation altogether. This can make life feel ‘very disabled’ when I go shopping. Physical access still remains an issue for me. Many stores have wheelchair access now, which is great, but it’s when you get inside the difficulties can start with crowded layouts making it very difficult to get around without damaging anything. Essentially my shopping experience can be stressful, which in turn puts me off going (if you put aside the fact I don’t like shopping anyway!), which in turn means I potentially don’t make purchases.
These experiences are not unique to me which is why I created Purple. A company that for the first time would uniquely bring together an understanding of disability and an understanding of business, with a vision and mission to create true societal change for the benefit of both.
Purple Tuesday is an embodiment of that vision. It will bring together disabled consumers with retailers to raise awareness of the barriers and experiences of disabled people, whilst also fully acknowledging it is not about one day. It is about a commitment to accessible services and understanding the challenges business also face. True change doesn’t happen in one day or overnight.
I truly believe we are on the brink of something big which can make a difference to the everyday lives of disabled people as well as the wider business cultural attitudes towards disability. We have already had international interest in the day and we can show the world how its done, firmly establishing the UK as leaders in this field.
So let’s do this. Let’s make 2018 the year of the first accessible shopping day, and the catalyst for making the UK a more accessible place.
Mike Adams OBE
Chief Executive Officer, Purple
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